Edmond P. DeRousse

The Easter Bunny & the Easter Egg

The egg, since ancient times, has been a symbol of life. An old Latin proverb “Omne vivum ex ovo” is translated to mean “all life comes from an egg”.  

There are many myths on the tradition of the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs. The origins are a mixture of myths, legends, and some history. After much research and confusion of the subject, here is my interpretation of the tradition’s beginning:

For Centuries, a bunny rabbit has been delivering eggs to children on Easter. This rabbit has become known as the Easter Bunny. There are many who believe the bunny, as a symbol of Easter, was first popularized by German Protestants. The earliest folklore suggest the Easter Bunny came as a judge of children’s behavior and left decorated eggs for the well-behaved.  

But why did the bunny become a symbol for Easter? It’s a combination of traditions. Hunting Easter Eggs is often thought of as originating from Pagan rituals, yet there is no solid evidence. Most of my research does seem, though, to lead to German connections as an originator of the idea.

Germany became Christianized in the 15-century. Prior to their Christian transformation, they celebrated the Goddess Eostre, also sometimes written as Eastre.  Eosturmonath was one of the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar. Eostre was celebrated as the Goddess of fertility. Their worship celebration occurred around 21 March. As these Pre-Christian German Pagans converted to Christianity, they were aware that the worship festival also took place around the time of the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

During their religious transformation, former pagans did not do away with all their holiday traditions. Some of their old symbols, like the bunny rabbit, was incorporated into their new faith.

For instance, one particular Pre-Christian Germanic tribe spoke of Eostre. She appeared to a little girl who came across an injured bird and prayed to the Goddess to help. According to the tradition, Eostre turned the bird into her favorite animal, a rabbit, and then made a promise to the girl. Because of her good deed, the rabbit would return once a year to bring rainbow colored eggs.  

But not so fast! Did Eostre really exist as a Goddess? There is much controversary about that. Some believe she was a created entity by the English Church historian, Bede. He was a Christian Monk during the early 7th-century He wrote about Eostre in his work “The Reckoning of Time”.  

But the Eostre worship pagan traditions had changed by the time Bede wrote about the Fertility Goddess. The festivals had been replaced by celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus. So, then, why would Bede have created the Goddess Eostre?  Many scholars are not sure, especially since he was focused on driving the pagans out. Scholars are still debating.  

Perhaps, in an attempt to blend Christianity into the transforming pagan culture, the two festivals were merged? The new festivals were Christian in focus and became known as Easter. 

There really isn’t much written about this Goddess, Eostre. It was mostly word of mouth. Bede mentions her, but only briefly. Yet the Easter Bunny exist! 

Could this be why? 

While reading Bede, Jakob Grimm, Co-author of “Grimn’s Fairy Tales”, in 1835 suggested that the Easter Bunny originated from the ancient German Pagan tradition honoring the Goddess Eostre. That suggestion became rumor and the rumor spread. The German immigrants took the Easter Bunny folklore with them to the United States.

Some believe, the Easter bunny may have been born in 1682. If so, Georg Franck von Franckenau is responsible for its birth. He was a member of the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (now known as the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina) and a Fellow of the Royal Society.In 1682 his book, “About Easter Eggs”, referred to the German tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter eggs for the children. 

 I tried to explain the existence of the Easter Bunny. Unlike the existence of Santa Claus, though whose story can be traced to an actual character, The Easter Bunny is only tradition. That’s my opinion, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. 

                                SOME EASTER BUNNY TRIVIA 

1.         The largest Easter egg ever made was over 25 feet high and weighed over 8,000 pounds. It was built out of chocolate and marshmallow and supported by an internal steel frame.

2.         U.S. Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was once the White House Easter Bunny.

3.         Each year, Americans spend over $2 Billion on Easter candy, including bunnies, marshmallows bunnies and eggs, and jellybeans.

4.         About 90 Million chocolate Easter Bunnies are produced each Easter.

5.         The Spanish dish hornazo (traditionally eaten on and around Easter) contains hard-boiled eggs as a primary ingredient. 

6.         In the North of England, at Eastertime, a traditional game is played where hard-boiled eggs are distributed and each player hits the other players egg with their own. This is known as “egg dumping” or “egg jarping”. The winner is the holder of the last intact egg. The losers get to eat their eggs.

7.         Deep-fried chocolate Easter eggs are sold around Easter time in Scottish fish and chips shops. 

8.         The ancient Greeks thought rabbits could reproduce as virgins. Such a belief persisted until early medieval times when the rabbit became associated with the Virgin Mary, who we know became pregnant without knowing man. 

9.         During the medieval period, rabbits began appearing in illuminated manuscripts and paintings where the Virgin Mary was depicted, serving as a symbolic illustration of her virginity.

10.       Chocolate eggs were made for the first time in Europe, in the 19th century. They remain one of the favorite Easter treats.     

11.       On Easter, 76% people bite off the chocolate bunny ears first, while 5% bite the feet first and 4% eat the tail first.

12.       In the mid-20th century, it used to take as much as 27 hours to make a marshmallow peep. Today, the time has been reduced to six minutes.